NBA Playoffs: Heat flaws show up big, Pacers exploit them to even series

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Miami fans, the time to panic may be now.

Indiana certainly didn’t dominate Miami in their ugly 78-75 Game 2 win, but they did make the Heat look like a team that may be fatally flawed without the third member of their “Big 3” in the lineup. The Heat had plenty of chances to win this game, but ended up giving home-court advantage to a team that nobody was predicting to win the series. Also, Miami simply didn’t look like a championship-caliber basketball team on Tuesday, which may be an even worse sign for them.

Miami was never able to get it going offensively, but they hid that in the first half by playing some absolutely suffocating defense on the Pacers, holding them to just 33 points in the 1st half and seemingly having an extra man on the court defensively.

In the 3rd quarter, however, Miami took their foot off the gas pedal defensively, Indiana was able to get a 28-point quarter, and Miami was unable to recover. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did their best, combining for 21 of Miami’s 23 fourth-quarter points, but LeBron missed 2 key free throws with 54 seconds remaining, and Wade missed a contested layup that would have tied the game for the Heat with 16 seconds remaining.

The Pacers missed a ton of free throws on their own to allow the Heat to stay in the game, but they were able to hold on after Mario Chalmers missed a game-tying 3 as time expired.

The story tomorrow will likely be about Wade’s missed layup and LeBron’s missed free throws (the latter more than the former), but the truth is that Miami’s offensive problems go much deeper than their ability to make shots down the stretch, especially with Bosh out of the lineup. Chalmers and Mike Miller played like they were shaving points. James Jones missed all 3 of his 3-point attempts. The team shot 1-16 from deep. Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and Ronny Turiaf combined for 7  points, and Erik Spoelstra seems to have lost faith in Haslem, the team captain, who only played 12 minutes.

No single Pacer had a great game, but that’s the beauty of this Pacer team — they don’t need big performances. They got what they needed when they needed it — a Leandro Barbosa floater here, a Danny Granger jump shot there, a David West post move on occasion, all the way down the line, and it was all they needed to beat the Heat on a night where Miami simply couldn’t get anything done offensively.

It’s simple for the Heat now — if they don’t win at least one game in Indiana, they’re going to go home early and have no rings to show for 2 years of having their “big three.” After Derrick Rose got injured, a lot of people expected Miami to have a fairly easy road to the finals, but the frontrunners should be feeling serious pressure right now.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.